Dingle: Whiskey, Beehives and Smoking Hogs

We slept well. It was not due to the craft beer or the red wine, but more the fresh sea or mountain air and a very soft comfortable bed. Good choice, yay, a hotel between a mountain and the big blue sea *chuckle*. We ate almost everything at breakfast (full Irish with lots of added extras) as we had a long day of intense coastal exploring ahead of us. Our first stop was for alcohol. Noooo, not because we were thirsty, but because one of us is a connoisseur. A whisk(e)y one at that!

The Dingle Distillery

This distillery was just around the corner (long and winding road more like it) from where we were, but we were way too early to join in on one of their distillery tours. As we were not so sure how long our day would be, we decided not to book one for later, hoping that one day soon we would return to Dingle…The distillery does not only make whisk(e)y, but gin and vodka too!! The interesting frog-looking car was one of many belonging to a group of tourists who also wanted to tour the distillery.

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive, which starts and ends in the town of Dingle, is part of the Wild Atlantic Way and sort of loops around the peninsula. It is a very popular route for tourists and such, but we were lucky as there were not so many big busses and small bicycles on the road. We travelled clockwise and our next stop was the seaside village of Ventry, where we visited the Celtic and Prehistoric Museum.

The interesting part of this museum is that it is small, yet it boasts items dating back to the Jurassic age. There’s a complete skeleton of a baby dinosaur, a nest of dinosaur eggs, a mammoth skull and an impressive collection of Celtic jewellery. There are many other interesting tools, weapons and artefacts on display, including this smoking hog 🐗

Splashing waves, grazing sheep and piled up stones. We were at Dunbeg Fort, which is a 500BC ruin precariously sitting on a cliff. In a few years time it might not be there, as the sea seems to be eroding it very fast, so please visit if you can. It is not spectacular as in WOW, and it also costs a small fee to walk down the hill, but it has a great historical value. The other side of the road, however, was much more interesting for us. There on the hill were many beehive huts that we simply just had to see. A very charming and friendly old lady greeted and chatted to us for a bit, advising us on which of the Fahan Beehive Huts to see first. The area is not big, but the walk is better, steep, but better, the huts are mostly intact and the view of the sea is amazing from up there. Here too is an entrance fee, but much more worth it!

There are a lot of interesting stops en route, even if it is just to see the cliffs, or a posing seagull that was definitely not camera shy!  😁

Oh, just ignore the one with the fat bum believing that she can soar over the cliffs 😆 and look at the amazing views of the Three Sisters mountains peaks instead. These wonderful photos were taken mostly from the Wine Strand, a quiet and peaceful beach a bit off the main route. Further along we also left the Slea Head Drive and motored a bit northwards to Ballydavid where we found a small pier, which is probably not in use anymore. From here the Three Sisters can be seen too. Take these little detours, you won’t regret it…

These lovely pink sea thrift (Ameria Maritima) flowering plants were growing everywhere near the pier.

So that includes our Irish Road trip for 2015. The next day we left quite early for Shannon, where we stayed for one night at the airport hotel. Yep, the airline we used changed the flight times after we booked everything, so we had to shorten our stay in Dingle because we were flying out at the crack of dawn 😠 grrrr…


St. Patrick and the singing men…

So now we are already six days into our holiday, and there are three things that made us happy when we woke up this morning. One: some-one has a birthday today *singing*. Two: we’re not so bothered by the weather anymore. Three: Ireland is totally magical. Make that four and five too. We spent a relaxing afternoon at our lovely accommodation yesterday, so today we headed off to the Ceide Fields which are in the county of Mayo, about an hours drive away. Well, as we’re always making ooh-ing and aah-ing stops on the way, it took a bit longer…but only just a bit…

The Ceide Fields is an almost six thousand year old Neolithic landscape which contains the oldest known field systems in the world. This ancient Pine tree trunk (with roots) is about 4300 years old!

This is what the fields look like, with the cone-shaped building where the Pine tree is housed, plus a little museum with an audio-visual show explaining the history. Please make the effort to watch the video, or take one of the free guided tours, before you walk in the fields, because only then will you be able to understand it all. Otherwise it might just look like a pile of stones to you, nothing else.

The other attraction at the fields is a platform built on a cliff across the road, where you can see, weather permitting, the very famous Downpatrick Head in the far distance (right)…our next destination…

Beginning to love these animals! Did you know that sheep are not native to Ireland, but had to be shipped in? They’re not even native to Europe, Africa or the Americas, but originate from the Middle East (Mesopotamia). Go figure. Did you know that the kiwi fruit is also a Chinese gooseberry? Or that already ten thousand years B.C. elephants were getting tipsy from the fermented fruit of the Marula tree in Southern Africa? That very same fruit used to make the yummy-hic-hic Amarula liqueur of today? Hmmm…A bit of useless information…Got carried away there 😉

The rugged coast on the way to Downpatrick Head. The name is derived from when St. Patrick himself founded a church on this cliff outcrop. The ruins of the church building, a stone cross and a holy well can still be found here today. It is extremely dangerous to walk near the cliff edges, especially when it is windy. The ground is very plush, soft and wet, so beware! We tried to heed this warning, but such beautiful photos can only be taken from the edge. So, again, rattle rattle (the bones), beeeeeeeep (the stopping heart) and shake, rumble and groan (the breakfast leftovers), toe by toe, we cautiously neared some of the edges. Other parts were way to soft, even though some dare-devils (not us) stood on them just to take a few selfies. This impressive sea-stack, called Dun Briste (broken fort), is about fifty metres high and about eighty metres from the edge of the cliff. There are many legends about why this piece was cut off from the mainland, ogres, pagans, ship ropes, but a favourite is that St. Patrick gathered all the snakes together, struck the ground with his rod, and whoop-whoop, the parting of the rocks. So all the snakes in Ireland were left slithering on the sea-stack. A very welcome myth for those of us with a snake-phobia 😀

Poll na Seantoine. A very large, interesting and natural thirty metre blow-hole. The fencing around it is made of stainless-steel flutes. So every time the wind blows, you hear lovely whistling music. After the 1798 uprising, several men, hiding from the redcoats, saught refuge down there, but drowned when the tide came in. The memorial, on top, was erected to honour them.

These look like Guillemots nesting on the one of the ledges of the Dun Briste (left) and Oystercatchers (right). We did not see many types of birds, only lots and lots of sea-gulls, which was quite a bit disappointing. Would have loved to see the puffin.

On the way back to Enniscrone, we passed by this lovely strand called Lacken. The coastline is quite craggy, but breathtakingly beautiful with a massive beach. You are also to see three counties from here, Mayo, Donegal and Sligo. It was a short hiatus, as rain clouds were starting to gather, so we headed back to our hotel. After refreshing ourselves, we went downstairs for dinner. Trying to secretely arrange a birthday surprise for my one and only without him getting suspicious was a bit difficult, but I managed, and this on the day of our arrival 🙂 The service staff brought his dessert out, with a cute little lit candle, and a chocolate written Happy Birthday message. They also sang! The other guests joined in too. The cherry on top was when the song was over, a group of four men at a nearby table cleared their throats and sang in Gaelic!!! It was absolutely beautiful! All the guests gave a roaring applause to them and especially to the blushing birthday boy

Loopity-loop at Loop Head

The weather forecast said little or no rain, yeah right! snigger-snigger, so we packed our nibbles and headed off to the Loop Head Peninsula. From Doolin it is about two to three Angels Travelling hours, because we took the Wild Atlantic Way, where we stopped at quite a few peaceful and beautiful spots along the way, did one or two loopity-loops, admired the scenery, dipped our toes in the icy cold water at the Spanish Point…uhm…no, not really…but almost…and last but not least, had a few conversations with the locals…uhm…sheep…The Spanish Point, by the way, does exist. Lots of ships from the Spanish Armada were shipwrecked at this area, many many years ago, and the survivors were later executed…

Apparently there are more sheep in Ireland than people. It must have been lambing season, because there were so many cute and curious little babies everywhere! These black-faced sort are the most common over here. You should see how high they climb up a mountain, or balance on a treacherous stone, and all that just for the juiciest piece of grass…and that’s all they do the whole day…chomp-chomp-chomp…

Loop Head is the most westerly point of Clare County, and if you have very good eyes, you might see America. Hee…heee! Eyes not so good are they?? Well, it is out there yonder. The cliffs are about two hundred metres high, with wonderful views at eye level, but someone wanted photos of the sea and ‘do-not-dare-go-near-the-edge’ coast below. Granted, the photos are all incredible, as you can see above, so having shaking nervous rattling knees was all worth it…Eeeeek!

The lighthouse is loved by tourists, and one can climb up to the balcony and admire the all-round view. It costs a few euros though. We opted to walk around, and even had a little picnic sitting on the soft grass and appreciating the shimmering ocean, and the fact that it was warm! It also did NOT rain, and it was not so windy. Perfect weather…considering…